thi.nguyen

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Recent thoughts

Ugh. Next week I turn 30. And I’ve been very emotional lately. There’s the whole, my body is actually changing. I get gassy when I eat dairy. I have grey hairs. I get hangovers. It takes me much longer to heal from anything. There’s ALSO the whole I’m nowhere near where I thought I would be at 30. No career, no long-term relationship that can lead to marriage, no money, no health insurance, no 401k, no property. NOTHING.

I know the path I chose is harder than most. And I swear everyone and their effing mom has an opinion on my career path — I recently was told I’m delusional and am using the “I’m following my dream” to not have to hold myself accountable for my arrested development.

Look, I was valedictorian in middle school. I was nominated for Homecoming Queen by the boys water polo team. I was runner up for Most Likely to Make You Laugh in high school. I went to UCLA, took on at least 19 or more units/quarter and graduated Cum Laude with a quarter to spare. I have a freakin Masters in Spanish and am fluent in three languages. This was all accomplished by 22. I was projected to do great things.

SO HOW DID I GET HERE? I’m not proud of where I am right now and I think it’s because of my projections of myself when I was 22. My 22 year old self is severely disappointed in myself now.

There’s a thing called SATURN RETURNS where it takes 30 years for Saturn to finish its rotation around the sun. Big changes tend to happen when you’re about 30, 60 and 90. I see that everywhere around my group of friends right now. We’re all turning 30 and a lot of my friends are either getting married, having babies, getting promoted, or even quitting that job they got straight out of college and traveling and rethinking a different career path. CHANGE. REBIRTH. 

SO WHAT? My biggest change happened after 22. When I decided to leave a laid out path of measurable success (school-job-money-security) for the unpredictable and dark non path of acting. Instead of walking on an already paved path, I have to figure out a path from A to B in the dark, while using a shovel I’ve never used before nor have the upper body strength to use it efficiently. Hence the slow and immeasurable progress of this stupid acting career. I swear I’m either really stupid or really crazy.

But Saturn Returns can also mean DEATH. Perhaps a death of something to make room for something else? The same friend that told me I was delusional in pursuing acting as a profession, suggested that maybe this isn’t the path for me. That because I’m so focused on it, I’m blinded from any opportunity that is coming.

But opportunity doesn’t come from nothing. Opportunity has to come from work. And I haven’t worked towards anything else but acting. If I were to quit acting now, I would have no focus. No passion. No direction. That’s too bleak. So acting is the answer. I’m already doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

SO WTF IS THE PROBLEM??! In my teens and early 20s, I was accomplishing a lot and succeeding at a fast rate. I was used to that and carried that projection and expectation of myself into now. When I compare myself and my present to that 22 year old projection, I am deeply saddened. I think to myself that I am about to turn 30 and I have nothing worth celebrating.

And then I remember how STUPID my 22 year old self was. She was writing everything in lowercase. Everything, even her name. Ugh. How annoying. She easily felt the pressures of FOMO. She needed to party party party. Instant gratification. Always impatient, always wanting it NOW! She was exhausting.

Now in my later 20s and about to be in my 30s, I find life to be richer when lived slower. Referring to my last post “Community” where I talk about my first year of Burning Man to my second year, my 22 year old self was the yoloing burnt out first year while myself now is the smell the flowers, make time for the sunrise, tea sipping second year.

So what’s going to be my Saturn Returns? Am I getting married? NOPE. Am I having a kid? NOPE. Am I changing career paths. FUCK NO. I think it’s going to be the DEATH of the 22 year old’s unfair and unrealistic projection of my 30 year old self. She was expecting me to have it all by now assuming that I would stay on the laid out path. She didn’t take in consideration that I decided to dig and find my own path. Which does take longer but that’s OK! With this death, I can actually accept and embrace that success might come later, much later. And it’s OK! Life will be felt deeper. Richer. Fuller.

See, Sarah Paulson who just won an Emmy has some career advice: Don’t Succeed So Early.  I think I’m gonna be alright. :]

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Community

Nobody can save you but

yourself – and you’re worth

saving. It’s a war not easily

won but if anything is worth

winning – this is it.  

— Charles Bukowski

The world is strange and tough. A lot of things don’t make any sense to me — like Taco Tuesdays on a Monday. I’m making it up as I go along and sometimes I compare myself to others as a measure of my own progress.

But comparing myself to others hurts me in so many ways. And I found myself doing that at Burning Man.

Burning Man is larger than life. Large in scale. Beyond “large”. I am constantly in awe at people’s ingenuity, creativity and generosity — to the point that I feel not worthy to be in the presence of such greatness — to the point that I compare myself and realize I could never amount to even a fraction of such greatness.

Although this thought comes up for me, it’s fleeting because a lot of what makes Burning Man Burning Man is community. 

This was my second year. My first year was so overwhelming.  I am an anxious and impatient person so my first year was full of anti fomoing — must see this, must be here, must be up up up and go go go, to the point that I was completely burnt out and over it by my last day. I was so tired I couldn’t/wouldn’t enjoy Burning Man any longer.

So why come back? I’m a few years older and a bit calmer in nature (a bit but not by much) and I didn’t feel the pressure of having to partake in everything Burning Man had to offer anymore. Burning Man is so large and full that it is impossible to experience everything and this year coming into the burn, I had made my peace with that. And with that pressure lifted from my shoulders, it made me more receptive to meaningful and surprising connections with others and it opened me to discover that Burning Man wasn’t just a one time buffet of extravagant experiences, but could be felt and lived on the daily.

I’m an extrovert and I feel energized when connecting with a lot of people. I usually connect with people through conversations and getting to know a person interpersonally, sharing and swapping stories. But with Burning Man and keeping with their 10 principles, I practiced Gifting. I brought my flute to Burning Man and busted it out. When someone approached me, or I was introduced to someone new, instead of asking the usual ‘What’s your name, what do you do?’ I told people to give me three adjectives that described themselves and from what they said, I improvised a little tune on my flute for them.

With something that came easy and readily for me now (albeit after years of training in music), after my little ditty, I saw genuine awe in people’s eyes. Some asked me what my process was (if your word was ‘open’ = C major — most commonly used in pop songs, ‘grounded’ = low G major — down to earth kind of feel, ‘sexy’ = flute trill with a little hip action ;)) and after explaining it, people complimented me on how I spoke and thought about music in terms of their personality, and it made me feel valued and part of the community of Burning Man.

I connected with people through music, something beyond words. I was just jamming on my flute for a camp and a violinist arrived and asked to jam with me. Burning Man is about saying yes, so I said, absolutely! We exchanged more music notes than words and when we played together, unrehearsed and organically, it was beautiful. Her name was Empress and her violin was white. I had no idea where she was from or even her real name, but we connected when our notes and rhythm just felt right together. That connection transcended and I could feel the people who were listening enjoyed our improvised songs and they in turn was part of the experience, part of the connection, part of the community.

She’s wild, uncombed, unpredictable.

She’s a whirlwind. A mess. Lost.

Insecurities manifest into a monster that is she. 

But what makes her wild, makes her beautiful. 

She is missed and her community calls to her to come back. 

And she calms, she listens, she is saved. 

photos courtesy of Niamh and PK